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The first thing Jaime Dugan noticed about Erik Huffman on the their way to the site of Survivor: China was the South Carolina sticker on his guitar case. To be fair, she couldn’t notice much else, because the cast was forbidden from talking or even looking each other in the eye until they all arrived to the filming location.

All the way to Shanghai, Jaime thought about the sticker.

Erik Huffman, and Jaime Dugan during the premiere of SURVIVOR: CHINA, Thursday, Sept. 20 (8:00 – 9:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2007 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

A Meeting Aired on National Television

When the tribe arrived to their location, Jaime immediately approached Erik. The two discovered they grew up just 30 miles from each other. Jaime, from Spartanburg and Erik, from Greenville, once worked at the same mall.

“It’s crazy because our first conversation is recorded. We spoke for the very first time on national television,” Jaime says.

The two did get to know one another in between eating earth worms and moldy rice. And while there was a mutual attraction, neither was in the physical or mental condition for romance.

Yes, Survivor is called Survivor for a reason.

“The hardest part was definitely the starvation,” Jaime says. “You’re so gross and you smell. My hair fell out and my eyes sunk in. I lost like, 21 pounds in 20 days, and I think Erik lost like 30 pounds.”

Erik Huffman and Jaime Dugan, during the fifth episode of SURVIVOR: CHINA, Thursday, Oct. 18 (8:00 – 9:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2007 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“We were automatically connected because we grew up in the same town. We felt at peace with each other. I’d always joke with him ‘if you screw me over, I’m going to tell your mom,'” Jaime says.

Survivor: China lasted 39 days. The tribe voted Jaime out on day 21. Erik made it a little further, ultimately getting voted out on day 33.

Surviving Love … After Survivor

After the show, Erik and Jaime flew home to the same airport in their home state. Jaime was a student at the University of South Carolina; Erik, a bass player in a band out of Nashville called Florez.

Well-fed and bathed, the pair discovered they actually did like each other sans starvation, and put their affection to the test with a long-distance relationship while Jaime finished college and Erik toured with his band, opening for artists like Gavin Degraw and the Doobie Brothers.

Meanwhile, news of their relationship broke, and Jaime and Erik ended up in the National Inquirer. Keep in mind, Survivor was basically The Bachelor of 2007. Less than a year after being voted off of the show and heading home, the couple was engaged.

They won a contest for an all-expense paid wedding from the Charleston CVB, thanks to fans who shipped the couple. Erik and Jaime had their dream wedding in 2009 — a dream wedding that landed a spot in People Magazine. Jaime’s photo was literally beside Beyoncé’s photo.

Nowadays, they’re getting interviewed by charming little internet newsletters rather than the Inquirer. Erik traded his bass for a stethoscope, becoming a physician’s assistant and landing a job with FirstHealth, which brought the couple to Moore County. Jaime owns a Charleston-based marketing firm and lifestyle blog.

It’s been 13 years since their reality TV meeting, and Jaime and Erik’s life is pretty normal. They take pics in front of coffee shops. They binge-watch Netflix and love takeout Thai food.

The Survivor Success Rate

The reality TV stint is just a small fraction of Erik & Jaime’s story. They both have successful careers, appreciate a good Netflix binge session and like to take trips as a family. Aw.

“It’s actually proven that Survivor couples have a higher success rate than couples from The Bachelor,” Jaime says.

It makes sense, honestly. They literally met at their worst. The rest is smooth sailing — except the occasional piece of fan mail.

“People have this perception that it changes you, but it wasn’t like that for us,” Jaime says. “When one season ends, another cast is selected and other season begins. We’ve just have pretty normal lives and careers.”

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